Jessica Gregory and Linda Leilani Bohanan incorporate a green message into their whimsical art.
Each Knoxville artist combines creativity with recycling in the "Recycled Kingdom" exhibit at the Fountain City Art Center, 213 Hotel Ave., through Sept. 28.
The focal point of "Recycled Kingston" is Gregory's 25-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep castle built of 859 large metal cans and salvaged wood. "Fantastic Castle" is a walk-through, three-dimensional mini-structure. Its frame is accented with reclaimed objects from wine corks to dog food cans to a busted guitar. "My main intention was to show in a fun way the amount of recyclable material that might be put into a landfill that could be reused," says Gregory. "To have more of an impact, I wanted to make it as big as I could."
Inside and around the building are life-size animals Bohanan sculpts of wire, salvaged shredded paper and saved medical gauze.
Art Center Executive Director Sylvia Williams paired the two women's work; it took a year for the exhibit to go from concept to reality.
While the castle is her first installation piece, Gregory also paints and often recycles metal into her sculptures. She sketched several designs, wanting to build a sturdy, yet portable structure. Whatever she built had to fit through the art center's 32-inch-wide, 6-foot-9-inch-tall doorway. And it had to be constructed in her garage. Designing 16 individual sections to bolt together into a castle ranging in height from 6 feet, 6 inches to 11 feet was "like a puzzle."
Gregory's primary building materials were 859 No. 10 steel food cans from Big Fatty's restaurant. Restaurant workers hand-washed and delivered cans to Gregory as she needed them. She and friends punched square holes in the bottom of the cans then ran wooden support rods through each can.
The rods and hardware needed to screw castle pieces together were the only items Gregory bought. She found pieces of wood and metal parts off cars while on kayaking trips, walks and drives. Friends and family donated decorative bits like bottle caps, wine corks and dog food cans. The frame for the twig turret roof incorporates a rim off a busted whiskey barrel, frame rods from a broken tent and chicken wire.
Friends Jennifer Daniel, Anne Cook and Kathy Wright rotated helping Gregory build sections of the castle on Saturdays. Other friends stored finished pieces in their garages; nine friends and family members put the puzzle together when the castle was assembled at the center. "Fantastic Castle" will move to the Emporium Center, 100 S. Gay St., in December. Gregory is looking for space to store the castle pieces between September and December and for volunteers to help move and reassemble it.
For now the castle is the temporary home for several of Bohanan's three-dimensional animal sculptures. A yellow-handed blue monkey swings in the turret; two fanciful life-size possum hang among supports. Central to the castle rear section is the neck-and-head life-size sculpture of a giraffe.
Bohanan has created clay and ceramic pieces for 25 to 30 years. "I played with paint, two-dimensional things. But I'm visual and tactile also. I find that the three-dimensional sculpture satisfied me," she says.
Bohanan works in her home studio but gets much of her materials from her "real job" as a registered dental hygienist in the office of Dr. Dan Crawford. She found an inexpensive, recycled source for materials while emptying "mulched" paper from the office shredder.
"I thought this paper is just too good to throw away. There could be something you could do with this," Bohanan says.
So she took a trash bag filled with shredded paper home, put the paper bits in a pot of water and boiled it on her stove. The result was a pulp to which she added some glue-like binders to create a mache-like material.
Recycling the paper gives Bohanan an economical way to make large sculptures — from the huge silvery head of a horse to the full body of a big-eyed goat. Whenever she needs more material, she takes home a 33-gallon garbage bag of shredded paper. She also recycles unused sterilized gauze left from dental procedures. "I'd be nothing if it were not for dentistry," jokes Bohanan.
She begins her art by forming an armature from hardware cloth or "Gutter Guard" more often used to keep leaves out of house gutters. She covers the skeleton with tissue paper or gauze before spreading the recycled paper clay over it. She sands and re-sands the pieces before painting them and adding paper string manes or sea coral whiskers and eyelashes.
While the creators hope visitors receive the recycling message from their art, they also hope their art makes people smile.
"I think art is for me something that will enhance the human spirit," says Bohanan. "Our society has enough violence …. I want my art to invoke the whimsy and put a smile on people's faces."
"And be a reprieve from our day-to-day stressors; kind of a healthy escapism," says Gregory. "And be fun."
What: Art by Jessica Gregory and Linda Leilani Bohanan using recycled materialsWhen: Now through Sept.28; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 1-5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.-1p.m. Saturday
Where: Fountain City Art Center, 214 Hotel Ave.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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